(ORDO NEWS) — It is known that wild animals serve as a natural reservoir for numerous viruses and bacteria, many of which pose a potential danger to humans.
Now the list of such possible pathogens has been replenished with another line: a new coronavirus, which is a close relative of SARS-CoV-2, has been found in Swedish bank voles.
The study of viruses circulating in wild animal populations can allow scientists to identify and track pathogens that are potentially harmful to humans in time.
Unlike the SARS-CoV and MERS coronaviruses, which were originally found in the blood of bats, seasonal coronaviruses such as HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 appear to be transmitted to humans from rodents.
Unlike synanthropic rodents, such as the gray rat and house mouse , voles interact less with humans: they are predominantly forest and steppe inhabitants, who gravitate little to human settlements and are found only in large parks or in private sectors of cities.
However, their less frequent contact with us also means that wild voles are less likely to become objects of virological research, which means that these animals may be natural carriers of pathogens that have not yet been studied.
Researchers at the Uppsala University Zoonoses Science Center confirmed this by finding a new coronavirus called “Grimsø virus” in 3.4% of 450 captive bank voles ( Myodes glareolus ) living in the county of Örebro in southern Sweden.
The virus was stably detected by RNA sequencing from animal lung samples for at least two years, from 2015 to 2017: that is, it is quite widespread among bank voles, and this is not an accidental pathogen.
It turned out that the new virus belongs to the betacoronavirus genus , which also includes SARS-CoV, MERS and SARS-CoV-2, which cause acute respiratory syndromes in humans.
It is not yet known whether the Grimsø virus is dangerous to humans, but as the number of infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans from small mammals has increased in recent years, early study of such pathogens may help prevent future outbreaks of the infection.
It is especially worth noting that the virus was found in bank voles, one of the most numerous and widespread rodents found from the Pyrenees in the west to the Sayan Mountains in the east (the distance between them is about seven thousand kilometers).
These voles act as carriers of epidemic nephropathy and tularemia pathogens, and some coronaviruses of an undetermined nature have already been identified in them.
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